Agartala, June 17: Having dealt a blow to the BJP in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress is now reaching out to rebels in the faction-ridden Tripura BJP. The man expected to lead the charge is Mukul Roy, who once helped the TMC grow in the Northeast and who is now back in its fold from the BJP.
Amidst speculations about party leaders leaving, BJP general secretary B L Santhosh and its organization secretary for the Northeast, Ajay Jamwal, landed in Agartala on Wednesday and met senior leaders and MLAs.
The BJP claimed the leaders were in Tripura as part of preparations for the next Assembly elections, which are two years away. The party also said the TMC’s attempts would not succeed as the central leadership had addressed the issues raised by the disgruntled leaders and placated them. BJP state president Manik Saka said “all is well” and any differences would be sorted out through discussions. He said the central leaders would also meet BJP ally IPFT.
Mukul Roy had been instrumental in bringing six Tripura MLAs from the Congress to the TMC fold in 2016 after the Congress tied up with the Left in West Bengal. He had later led the six to the BJP.
After its return to power in West Bengal recently, the TMC had announced that it would expand to other states to take on the BJP.
In October, BJP leader Sudip Roy Barman, who was among the MLAs in the TMC and considered close to Roy, had led more than half a dozen of the BJP’s 36 MLAs (in a House of 60) to Delhi seeking a leadership change in Tripura. They had claimed the support of nine MLAs.
While the central leadership had not intervened at first even as rebellion brewed against Chief Minister Biplab Deb, it had stepped in when the CM called a public meeting to seek people’s “mandate” in December. BJP president J P Nadda was said to have convinced Deb to call it off.
A BJP MLA said, “Yes, Roy has reached out to some MLAs, but no significant discussions took place.” Another party source said the CM had won over “some of these so-called rebels”, and that the MLAs had just been concerned about keeping their seats.
Sources also said many in the Barman camp had deserted him as the central leadership had made it clear that Deb would not be replaced. One of the MLAs who accompanied Barman to Delhi said, “We don’t like to be called rebels. We are very much in the BJP but we had some differences. We went to Delhi to talk it out. Because of the pandemic, the central leadership could not come here, now they have come… Santoshji is giving us a patient hearing.”
Another MLA said the TMC “has no scope in Tripura as of now”. “Some of us were in the TMC for a short while and were not very happy.”
A confidant of Barman also said while they had “issues”, talk that BJP MLAs might join the TMC was “baseless rumor-mongering”.
Saha said he had not got any report of any BJP MLA leaving. “There are several instances in a family. These will be sorted out… There is a scope of talk in the BJP. We shall discuss organisationally if any situation arises.”
TMC Tripura president Ashish Lal Singh claimed a surge into the party since Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal, saying “11,300 people from the BJP and CPM have joined the TMC in the last two weeks”.
Singh added that while it was up to Banerjee to decide whether to take back MLAs who had left the party, she had “clarified she would not take back people who have humiliated the TMC”. “People of Tripura want fresh faces, they don’t want turncoat leaders,” he said. “However, nothing is final in politics.”